ABET accreditation is a type of program-specific education accreditation that recognizes the quality of university-level technology, engineering, and applied science programs. These educational accreditation services are provided by ABET, Inc., an organization formerly known as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. While ABET, Inc. is based in the United States, its accreditation services are available to both United States-based and international schools. Graduation from an ABET accredited program can be an important, if not essential, credential for individuals who wish to work in the fields of study that it accredits, particularly that of professional engineering. In fact, some licensing boards, particularly those for professional engineers, will not license applicants who have not completed a degree through an ABET-accredited program.
Schools that want to obtain ABET accreditation typically contact ABET, Inc. and begin a self-evaluation process. Once the school determines that it can meet ABET criteria, a lengthy process of ongoing evaluation begins, including the completion of forms, supplying documentation, and field visits from ABET, Inc. officials. After a program earns ABET accreditation, it will have to undergo a renewal process at regular intervals to ensure that the school maintains its standards.
While accreditation is generally a voluntary process, particularly so in the United States, schools and programs that are not accredited are typically at a competitive disadvantage when compared to accredited institutions. Institutional accreditation is a process that evaluates the overall quality of a school, including its educational offerings as well as its institutional stability. Tthis type of general accreditation may not be specific enough to ensure the quality of certain educational programs in very specialized fields, however. For this reason, some academic, industry, and professional groups offer specialized accreditation services to ensure the quality and standardization of education in a particular discipline. ABET accreditation serves the interests of the engineering and applied sciences fields by ensuring that graduates of its accredited programs have completed a curriculum that meets industry standards.
It is possible for schools to offer programs in engineering or computing without obtaining ABET accreditation. Their graduates may experience significant difficulty in obtaining employment or being accepted into graduate programs. This is because many schools, employers, and government agencies do not recognize non-ABET accredited educational programs. Graduates of programs that do not hold ABET accreditation may find themselves either having to take lower-status positions with organizations that don't require graduation from an ABET-accredited program, finding ways to practice their profession that do not require licensure, or simply going back to school in order to graduate from an accredited program.